The speakers at Tuesday night’s public consultation on whether Charlottetown should amend its bylaw for barriers around private pools spoke unanimously against the proposed change.

Charlottetown’s current bylaw requires a swimming pool to be completely surrounded by a fence or structure that is at least 1.8 metres high, but the city is pondering whether a certified pool cover could be a suitable alternative.

Of the seven speakers, three were doctors and one was the city’s former chief administrative officer.

“It surprises me that the city would even consider removing such a safety requirement or that a property owner would take on such a risk,” said Harry Gaudet, who served as the city’s CAO until his retirement in 2006.

“Why would you ever give up multiple layers of protection? Even if they do have a cover, why would you give up another proven standard that’s worldwide?”

2 residents requested change

City council is considering the change — and taking it to public consultation — after requests were received from two residents. One was in 2020 and the other more recently.

Former Charlottetown CAO Harry Gaudet was one of the seven speakers at the meeting. He says he was making the ‘strong recommendation’ that the current bylaw be left in place as written — or the results could be tragic. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

“I would encourage you to please continue to encourage the multiple levels of safety in our community,” said Dr. Kathryn Morrison at Tuesday’s meeting.

Morrison told council she has an automatic pool cover like the one the city is considering in lieu of fencing. She said her cover has broken countless times and accumulates rainwater on the surface so it does not enter the pool — but enough water collects to drown a small child.

She is also one of the doctors who previously spoke out against weakening the bylaw.

This is what governance is about.— Philip Brown, Charlottetown mayor

“Once we got air bags in cars, we didn’t suddenly stop using seatbelts, we layer things to keep people as safe as possible,” said Morrison.

“Please consider that both of these mechanisms together will be helpful, but do not do away with the fence because someone has opted to put in an electronic pool cover.”

Mayor says enforcement needed

Many of the speakers — as well as the city staff presenter — spoke about the research showing that fences are industry standard and have been recommended by many safety bodies as a life-saving protection.

Planning and heritage staff told council that in their research they found two jurisdictions that allow for automatic pool covers rather than fences: a provincial amendment to the national building code in Alberta and a bylaw in Chilliwack, B.C.

“We have more than one property owner in this city who has already gone ahead and installed a pool without a fence with just the single line of protection,” said Brighton resident Robert Bruce.

“We’re not dealing with the consideration of what we are going to deal with tomorrow, we are dealing with the reality of an unresolved situation today that is not being addressed by the current bylaw.”

Mayor Phillip Brown said enforcement of the current bylaw was being looked at.

“I believe we understand what you’re talking about, that there is already a pool existing at this point in time that has to be addressed through our summary offence ticketing,” he said.

“I want to thank the doctors for their participation and what they’ve added to this discussion because this is what governance is about, and that is about public input and that’s where we’re coming from tonight.”

The issue will now return to the city’s planning board and then back to city council next month.